A honeymoon is the traditional trip taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage with seclusion and sexual intimacy. Today, honeymoons are often celebrated in places that are secluded, exotic, warm, or otherwise considered special and romantic. A recent trend among couples is to combine the wedding and honeymoon into one experience or substitute one for another.
Origins of the Word Honeymoon
The Oxford English Dictionary offers no etymology at all, but dates the word back to the 16th century: “The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure” (Samuel Johnson); originally having no reference to the period of a month, but comparing the mutual affection of newly married persons to the changing moon which is no sooner full than it begins to wane; now, usually, the holiday spent together by newly married couples, before settling down at home.
One of the oldest citations in the Oxford English Dictionary indicates that, while today honeymoon has a positive meaning, the word was actually a sardonic reference to the inevitable waning of love like a phase of the moon . This, the first literary reference to the honeymoon was penned in 1552 , in Richard Huloet’s Abecedarium Anglico Latinum . Huleot writes “Hony mone, a term proverbially applied to such as be newly married, which will not fall out at the first, but thone loveth the other at the beginning excedingly, the likelyhood of their exceadinge love appearing to aswage, ye which time the vulgar people call the hony mone.”
It has also been said that the origins of this word date back to the times of Babylon. In order to increase the virility and fertility of the newlyweds, the father of the bride would provide his son in law with all the mead (a honey-based drink) he could drink during the first month of the marriage (and therefore “moon”). Given that the English word is only four hundred years old, direct attribution to Babylon is questionable, though often repeated. The custom of drinking mead after a wedding for a month was also a medieval custom, however, and in practice at the time the word first appeared.
Other possible explanations of the word honeymoon have to do with the date that weddings traditionally took place. Weddings once commonly took place upon the Summer solstice both for religious reasons earlier on and also for the practical reason that it was the time between the main planting and harvesting of crops. As it was at this time of year that honey was first harvested, it is possible that this is the source.
Another alternative is that “Honey Moon” is a name given to the moon when its path is close to the southern horizon. Its light shines though the haze and dust of our atmosphere giving its light a honey colour for the whole month.
Satirists have said that a “Honeymoon salad” is “lettuce alone”.
The Welsh word for honeymoon is mis mêl (honey month).